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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Two Oklahoma airports: David Boren, KuwAm and 9/11

Via DW

There are many connections between the events of 9/11 and Oklahoma City. Some of these connections revolve around the alleged 9/11 hijackers, the “20th hijacker” Zacarias Moussaoui, and a couple of airports around Oklahoma City. Looking closer at the airport connections reveals startling coincidences with regard to the people who ran World Trade Center (WTC) security company Stratesec, as well as CIA Director George Tenet’s mentor, David Boren, who is currently the co-chairman of President Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board.


Independent investigators have shown that there are striking links between the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (OKC) and the events of 9/11.[1, 2] Recently, many 9/11 investigators have become more interested in learning the truth about the OKC bombing after being exposed to the excellent film A Noble Lie.[3]

The OKC investigations have revealed eyewitnesses accounts of the sighting in Oklahoma of Mohamed Atta and five other 9/11 hijacker suspects.[4] Last year, an article in the Oklahoma Gazette confirmed that records show Atta, Marwan Al-Shehhi, Nawaf Al-Hazmi and Zacarias Moussaoui all “either visited or lived in Oklahoma from July 2000 to August 2001.”[5]

Between February and August of 2001, Zacarias Moussaoui lived in Norman, Oklahoma and attended Airman Flight School at Max Westheimer Airport, which is owned and operated by the University of Oklahoma. Moussaoui even lived in a university dormitory. According to Moussaoui’s indictment, Atta and Al-Shehhi had visited the same flight school in July, 2000, but did not take classes there.

Westheimer Aiport is just three miles northwest of Norman and was originally a U.S. Navy flight training field. A squadron of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), a federally supported, non-profit corporation that serves as the official civilian auxiliary of the U. S. Air Force, still gathers at Westheimer every week.[6] Coincidentally, several of the alleged 9/11 hijackers rented apartments in Delray Beach, Florida from a member of CAP. One of the apartments was said to be “a meeting ground for terrorists.” The CAP member landlord, Mike Irish, turned out to be the first intended victim of the October 2001 anthrax attacks. One of his employees actually died from the anthrax.[7]

In 2005, Airman Flight School shut down due to its inability to pay rent and the university newspaper revealed the name of the company that had leased the building. “The airport building is owned by the University of Oklahoma. A Cleveland County District Court order had granted possession of the building to the current landlord, Baker Hughes, Inc., of Houston, which leases the building from OU.” Baker Hughes is an oil services company that is among an elite few making a killing off of the Iraq War.[8]

Dale Davis, the vice president of Airman Flight School, said FBI agents showed up at the facility asking questions about Moussaoui and had been there before. “Davis said FBI agents had visited his school just two years earlier to inquire about Ihab Ali Nawawi, who took flight training there in 1993 and was later charged in connection with the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Africa, which were blamed on bin Laden’s group. Davis also confirmed that Atta and another suspected hijacker, Marwan al-Shehhi, visited Airman Flight School, staying overnight at the school’s dormitory in the nearby Sooner Inn, before deciding to train at another facility.”[9]

Weeks after 9/11, however, FBI Director Robert Mueller repeated his false assertion that federal authorities had no idea that terrorists were using U.S. flight schools to train for piloting commercial airliners. ”There were no warning signs that I’m aware of that would indicate this type of operation in the country,” he said.[10] Apparently he had forgotten about the famous July 2001 Phoenix memo and several other related warnings focused on that exact risk.[11]

Established in 1989, Airman Flight School was owned by Jerry Carroll and Brenda Keene. Apparently Carroll and Keene bilked a number of their students out of their life savings as the flight school was going under. But the service was very good in some cases, considering that — “Flight instructor Juan Carlos [Merida] picked up Moussaoui at Will Rogers World Airport when he came to Oklahoma and took him back to the airport when he left.”[12]

Airman’s students sued Carroll and Keene when the business collapsed, along with KJB Flight Management, an entity of which Keene and David Batton were principals. KJB had tried to buy Airman and was managing the school until it closed.[13] David Batton was, at one time, the Cleveland County Assistant District Attorney. The Panamanian Juan Carlos Merida, who had picked up and dropped off Moussaoui from the airport, was later represented by Batton in legal proceedings related to suspicion of terrorism.[14]

Wiley Post and Hangar 8

According to FBI summary documents, Mohamed Atta was also spotted at nearby Wiley Post Airport in Bethany, Oklahoma within six months of the 9/11 attacks. An employee at private aviation company Million Air witnessed Atta flying at Wiley Post Airport along with two other alleged 9/11 hijackers, Marwan Al-Shehhi and Waleed Al-Shehri.[15] Other FBI summary documents indicate that Saeeed Al-Ghamdi was also seen flying in to Wiley Post Airport on an unspecified date and that Hani Hanjour had made inquiries to a company in The Netherlands that ran a flight school out of Wiley Post Airport.[16]

The suburb of Bethany is just seven miles west of Oklahoma City and a little over 20 miles from Norman. Wiley Post, located in Bethany, is one of three airports owned and operated by the Oklahoma City Department of Airports. Westheimer Airport in Norman, run by the university, provides a fourth option for public airport access.

Hangar 8 of Wiley Post Airport was, until 2005, the home of Aviation General, the aircraft company owned by Kuwaiti-American Corporation (KuwAm) and run by Wirt Dexter Walker III. KuwAm and its WTC security company Stratesec had strong connections to the Kuwaiti royal family, which benefited from 9/11 through the ouster of Saddam Hussein. The companies were also strongly linked to the Bush family network and to people who came from deep-state U.S. intelligence backgrounds.[17] Like his fellow KuwAm director Robert Dudley van Roijen, Walker is the son of a CIA officer. He is also a suspect in 9/11 insider trading.[18]

Aviation General was the parent of two wholly-owned subsidiaries: Commander Aircraft Company, which manufactured Commander-brand aircraft, and Strategic Jet Services, which provided aircraft brokerage and refurbishment services. Aviation General, Commander Aircraft, and Strategic Jet Services were all located in Hangar 8 of Wiley Post Airport.

Wiley Post Airport has approximately 24 hangars and Hangar 8 is set off away from the rest.[19] Although Aviation General and its subsidiaries all went bankrupt or were sold off in the few years after 9/11, Hangar 8 still houses three businesses. These include Jim Clark & Associates, Valair Aviation, and Oklahoma Aviation.

Jim Clark & Associates is an aircraft sales and brokerage firm, similar to Strategic Jet Services, and is located in Hangar 8. The company shared a phone number (405-787-6222) with another aircraft company called Sundancer Enterprises, out of Norman, OK.

Valair Aviation is an aircraft service company also located in Hangar 8. This is a service center that works on Commander-brand aircraft, the kind that Wirt Walker’s Commander Aircraft Company had manufactured there. Valair started as a division of Aero Commander, which was a subsidiary of Rockwell International and Gulfstream. By the year 2000, Valair (called the Service Center) had also become specialized in servicing Raytheon aircraft.

At first glance, the most interesting of these new Hangar 8 companies is the flight school called Oklahoma Aviation. This is due to an incredible coincidence regarding the young man who now runs the company, Shohaib Nazir Kassam.

Oklahoma Aviation first appeared on the internet in March, 2001 although the website was only one page with the company name for the first year. The company was officially founded in February 2004 by Tom Kilpatrick, the son of famous Oklahoman John Kilpatrick Jr., who had been president of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce.

Tom Kilpatrick didn’t know anything about aviation, so he hired Shoiam Kassam to be the Chief Flight Instructor and Rob Rothman as Assistant Chief Flight Instructor. Rothman was a recent graduate of the University of Oklahoma and member of the Civil Air Patrol. Rothman is now an officer in the U.S. Air Force stationed in Pensacola, Florida. The Air Force base is located at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola which, coincidentally, was the address used by several alleged 9/11 hijackers on their driver’s licenses.[20]

In March 2007, Oklahoma Aviation was purchased by another famous son of Oklahoma, Clayton Healey. Clay had just come off the ranch as a cowboy in 2003 and started AIC Title Service, which focused on aircraft company closures. Clay’s father was Skip Healey, a well known Republican National Committee member and oil company executive. The Healey’s were grandnephews of Lew Wentz, who had opened Oklahoma up to the oil industry.

By 2008, Oklahoma Aviation had the best airplanes around.[21] And somehow young Shoaib Kassam came to be listed as the owner of the company.[22] The Chief Flight Instructor today is Marcus Buchanan, who in 1998 was a student at the Airline Training Academy (ATA) in Orlando, Florida. This is the same ATA that went bankrupt while robbing its students and was then found to have financial connections to Wally Hilliard, who owned Huffman Aviation, where Atta and friends went after deciding not to train in Oklahoma.[23] Buchanan went from ATA to be a flight instructor at the University of Oklahoma’s Department of Aviation before moving to his current job in Hangar 8.

The part of this story that seems more incredible is that Kassam was, in March 2006, a government witness against Zacarias Moussaoui. He was actually Moussaoui’s flight instructor. To emphasize, the guy who is now occupying Wirt Walker’s offices in Hangar 8 at Wiley Post Airport not only knew Zacarias Moussaoui, he was the primary flight instructor of the “20th hijacker” at Airman Flight School.

Kassam moved to Norman in 1998, at the age of 18, coming from Mombassa, Kenya. He was originally from Pakistan. Two years after he arrived in Norman, he completed his training to become a flight instructor. He was only 21 years of age when he spent 57 hours (unsuccessfully) trying to train Zacarias Moussaoui to fly.

During his testimony and cross-examination in the Moussaoui trial, Kassam was asked many times about Moussaoui’s religion. Both the prosecutor and the defense attorney were very interested in whether Moussaoui was a devout Muslim. After repeated questioning, Kassam said that yes, he thought that Moussaoui considered himself a Muslim.

“Q. And you mentioned that he was trying to get you back into the faith?

A. No. He just talked about, you know, church, I mean, sorry, mosques and going to pray and fasting, and just things like that.”[24]

There seemed to be some confusion on this issue in the courtroom. But Kassam was useful to the prosecution in that he confirmed that Moussaoui also called himself Zuluman Tangotango. This allowed prosecutors to introduce a mountain of emails from the address “pilotz123@hotmail,” purportedly belonging to Zuluman Tangtango. The email evidence played a significant role in Moussaoui’s conviction.

Kassam also remembered seeing Atta and Al-Shehhi at Airman. A student at the time of Atta and Alshehhi’s visit, Kassam recalled bumping into them when they were being given a tour of the Airman facility.

The history of Aviation General was, like that of Stratesec and the other companies that Wirt Walker ran, a record of well-financed business failure. As of 1998, Aviation General was losing millions of dollars every year. With very humble positive returns, the year 2000 results were the best in the company’s history, according to Walker.

In September 2000, John DeHavilland of British Aerocraft joined as CEO of Strategic Jet Services. Three months later, Walker’s president at Aviation General, Dean N. Thomas, died suddenly at a young age.[25] And by August 2001, Aviation General was reporting million-dollar losses again.

In late 2002, Strategic Jet Services “discontinued its operations and began the process of dissolving the company.”[26] Commander Aircraft Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy at the same time, and that was changed to Chapter 7 in January 2005. Commander Aircraft left Oklahoma in September 2005 to move to an “undisclosed location.” In an odd shell game reminiscent of the Stratesec dealings, what was left of Aviation General was sold to Tiger Aircraft, a small company with Taiwanese investors that went bankrupt in 2006.

Oklahoma Aviation was a flight school that was just getting off the ground in 2005, as it took over Hangar 8 from Aviation General and soon had the best planes. This was the opposite of the apparent financial fortunes of the Aviation General companies that all went belly up that year. And it was also unlike Airman Flight School which, although it was in the same area and same business as Oklahoma Aviation, shut down in 2005 because it could not pay the rent.

David Boren

On the morning of 9/11, CIA Director George Tenet was having breakfast in Washington with his long-time mentor, former Oklahoma Senator David Boren. While a Senator, Boren was the longest serving chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI). According to Tenet, Boren plucked him from obscurity in 1987 to serve first as his aide and then, later as the staff director for the SSCI.

Boren was a member of the Yale secret society Skull & Bones, like George W. Bush was five years later. After serving four years as Governor of Oklahoma and 15 years in the U.S. Senate, he became the President of the University of Oklahoma, a position he has held since 1994. Boren lives in Norman where his university housed Airman Flight School, and where the alleged 9/11 hijackers sought training and Moussaoui lived and trained.

Boren went from his breakfast meeting with Tenet to join James Woolsey in helping to produce the media story. Although the CIA and FBI didn’t seem to have any idea what to look for prior to 9/11, Boren certainly seemed to know what the 9/11 attacks were all about as soon as they happened.

While being interviewed on September 11, Boren said:

“I think you have to have bin Laden on the suspect list. You probably have some nation states that ought to be on the suspect list as well [Iraq, for example]. You know, looking at this, it’s very clear– and I think this hopefully will give us leads to trace back and find and affix responsibility– the training that had to have been there by those who took over the aircraft, the ability to pilot the aircraft. It appears that perhaps they were piloting the aircraft, the knowledge to turn off the transponders that would make it very difficult to trace these aircraft from the ground and through our air control system.

These were people that were highly trained; they knew what they were doing. It was all very carefully coordinated. So we’re dealing with people with a lot of sophistication here. Some of that training and some of that preparation is bound to have left clues that hopefully we’ll be able to thread through pretty quickly.”[27]

There certainly were a lot of clues, and many of them seemed to implicate David Boren and his university. Boren had no intention of mentioning those clues, however. He didn’t mention that the airport run by the university where he was president had been training Zacarias Moussaoui to fly. He also failed to point out that Mohamed Atta and other alleged 9/11 hijackers had called, emailed and visited his airport in the two years before 9/11. Additionally, it might have been of interest to the listeners that the FBI had showed up several times over the years to talk to the people at Airman Flight School, located at Boren’s airport, about the training of terrorism suspects.

Another relevant point of interest was that, just the month before, Boren had personally brought the former CIA Station Chief in Berlin to the university to teach in the Political Science department. David Edger, who had been involved in orchestrating another September 11th tragedy, the Coup in Chile, joined the faculty at the University of Oklahoma at Boren’s invitation. Edger’s most recent responsibility at the CIA was the monitoring of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell, which included Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehi, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and Ziad Jarrah.[28]

What are the odds that David Boren could have been so clueless about the training of al Qaeda operatives under his own nose? What are the odds that Zacarias Moussaoui’s primary trainer at Boren’s airport is now occupying the offices of Wirt D. Walker’s former businesses in Hangar 8 at Wiley Post Airport? Maybe we should find out.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The corporate media and the global pedophile ring cover-up...

 Via WMR

The New York Times and The Washington Post carried a double-barrel blast against China this past week. The Times's report, based on documents handed over to the paper, castigates the immense wealth built up by the family of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, including his 90-year old mother, Yang Zhiyun, a retired school teacher. The Post's report was centered around a complaint from the family of purged Chinese Communist Party leader and his wife, Gu Kailai, convicted of murdering a British businessman, that Bo's family found it difficult to put together a defense team for the ousted leader. Bo, whose business contacts with the George Soros/Rothschild family and Paul Desmarais clique, had raised hopes among the Western vulture capitalist class that Bo was another Mikhail Gorbachev who would bring about an end to the Chinese Communist Party, is awaiting trial on a series of as yet unknown criminal charges. One of the sons of Bo and Gu is under the virtual protection of the United States government in the Boston area.

There is another reason for the Times's and Post's seemingly coordinated attack on China's leadership. China's government has let it be known that it is aware that a number of foreign journalists who were pulled out of Southeast Asia by either their corporations or Central Intelligence Agency interlocutors because of pressure being brought to bear by the governments of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam on expatriate foreigners that are known to be pedophiles, have re-settled in Beijing. Cambodia gave the boot to a well-known journalist who once worked for Newsweek, Fortune, and UPI and who pedophile activities in Cambodia earned him the enmity of Queen Mother Monineath, the wife of the late King Norodom Sihanouk. The CIA used known pedophiles to run CIA-funded newspapers in Thailand, Cambodia, and Burma. WMR has, in the past, reported extensively on the activities of U.S. diplomat pedophiles in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Brunei, Philippines, Singapore, and Bangladesh.

China is not a friendly terrain for pedophiles for a number of reasons, including a zero tolerance policy of the Chinese government and the fact that China's "one-child" policy means that parents keep a watchful eye on their son or daughter. While in Beijing, WMR learned that pedophile foreign journalists hold positions with a number of Western media outlets and non-governmental organizations connected to George Soros in Beijing and Shanghai.

The Times and Post obviously want to shift the scandal involving former BBC children's and teen show star Jimmy Savile and a ring of pedophiles connected to a past Prime Minister, as well as member of the royal family, to China, which is known to be hostile to international pedophiles. By "killing two birds with one stone," the papers want to drive the BBC story off the front pages and turn up the heat on China at the same time. The Post has never recovered from its ignoring the infamous late 1980s call boy scandal involving midnight tours of the White House for underage congressional pages arranged by pedophile official of the Reagan and Bush I administrations. The scandal was carried on the front page, above the fold of The Washington Times. It later emerged that the page scandal involved a number of well-known Washington journalists, the main one being former ABC News reporter Craig Spence, who was expelled by the South Vietnamese government ostensibly for black market currency transactions. WMR learned that the Washington Post ignored the scandal because it involved Post employees.

A related 1980s pedophile case involving senior military officers and which reached into the Reagan White House was similarly covered up by corporate media owners. Two papers, the Register Guard of Eugene, Oregon and Navy Times, were forced to spike stories in 1984 on a major pedophile ring due to pressure from publishers. When it comes to pedophile rings that involve important people, the corporate media has not shown itself trustworthy to fully cover the stories. Years of evidence against convicted Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was ignored at the early, mid, and even late stages by the media in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia.


Incoming New York Times Company president Mark Thompson, who was director general of BBC last December when the BBC program Newsnight spiked an investigative piece on Savile's pedophile escapades while at the BBC, has denied he knew anything about the reasons for canceling the exposé. Thompson claims it was because of a lack of evidence in the case against Savile. It has now been reported that up to 300 underage teens may have been sexually molested by Savile and that the disgraced entertainer, who died last year, was not the only BBC celebrity to engage in such conduct. There have also been charges that Savile molested the corpses of dead children at hospitals where he raised charitable donations.

The Times's ombudsman, Margaret Sullivan, asked the following question about her incoming boss in a column this week: "How likely is it that he knew nothing?
A director general of a giant media company is something like a newspaper's publisher. Would a publisher be very likely to know if an investigation of one of its own people on sexual abuse charges had been killed?"

Times officials, including chairman of the board Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger, Jr. have rallied to Thompson's defense, which has left the Times' reporting on the BBC scandal lacking in both professionalism and veracity.

However, the Times and Post have both found it newsworthy to jump on the China bashing bandwagon whose current band leader is GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. We'll see whether either paper ever reports on the pedophile ring that has relocated from Southeast Asia to China. Our guess is no because some of the perpetrators' names may have also been found in by-lines from Asia carried by the two newspapers.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Martin Sheen, Woody Harrelson to star in 9/11 conspiracy movie...

 Via

Hollywood is to court controversy with a film that will challenge the official version of the events of 9/11, a previously taboo topic for the industry mainstream. Martin Sheen, Woody Harrelson and Ed Asner, who have all supported conspiracy theories about the terrorist attacks, have signed up to the movie, which is entitled September Morn.

Styling itself as a drama in the tradition of Twelve Angry Men, the film's advance publicity note hints at a cover-up, saying: "We the people demand that the government revisit and initiates a thorough and independent investigation to the tragic events of 911."

Details of the film, which is to be directed by BJ Davis and written by Howard Cohen, are expected to be revealed at an American Film Market conference in Los Angeles next week, Deadline.com reported.

The production has been set up by Fleur de Lis Film Studios, which has also made the documentary A Noble Lie, about the Oklahoma City bombing, and Operation: Dark Heart, a feature based on an intelligence agent's memoirs.

Until now Hollywood has steered clear of claims that the Bush administration, or other elements in the government, may have been behind the 9/11 attacks, in which hijacked passenger planes crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennslyvania. The fourth plane was apparently en route to the Capitol.

Oliver Stone, who has challenged official history in JFK and other films, steered clear of conspiracy theories in his 2006 film World Trade Center, which focused on the heroism of police and rescuers.

September Morn has assembled a cast linked to the so-called truther movement, which alleges official inconsistencies, complicity and cover-up.

Sheen, who starred in Apocalypse Now and television's The West Wing, has long questioned whether Islamist hijackers single-handedly brought down the Twin Towers, killing 2,605 people.

"I did not want to believe that my government could possibly be involved in such a thing, I could not live in a country that I thought could do that – that would be the ultimate betrayal," he told an interviewer in 2007.

Sheen grew suspicious after his son Charlie, also an actor, alerted him to apparent contradictions, such as how a structure known as "Building 7" fell.

He said: "However, there have been so many revelations that now I have my doubts, and chief among them is Building 7 – how did they rig that building so that it came down on the evening of the day?"

Asner, who has won seven Emmys, has several times urged a new investigation into 9/11. In 2010, he told an interviewer: "This country – which is the greatest, strongest country that ever existed in the world, in terms of power – supposedly had a defence that could not be penetrated all these years. But all of that was eradicated by 19 Saudi Arabians, supposedly. Some of whom didn't even know how to fly."

Harrelson, who starred recently in The Hunger Games, has also supported the self-styled 9/11 truth movement.

September Morn is also the name of a Neil Diamond album and a painting by the French artist Paul Émile Chabas which hangs in New York's Metropolitan Musuem of Art.

Israel's PM Netanyahu forms coalition with far-right party...

Via BI

On Thursday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's announced he was merging his Likud party with that of his ultra nationalist coalition ally Foreign Minister Avigdor Liebermanith to create a "big, cohesive forceahead of Israel's January 22 elections.

The fallout has been heavy and swift from multiple sides.

From Ari Shavit of the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz: 
The right's big bang is undoubtedly a dark development. It turns Israel's ruling liberal nationalist party into an extreme nationalist party. It turns Israel's center-right prime minister into a prime minister held captive by dark forces. If until yesterday, Netanyahu could still claim to be the Israeli Ronald Reagan or Rudy Giuliani, yesterday, he turned into Glenn Beck.

A poll on published by top-rated television station Channel Two Friday
suggested that the move immediately reduced the coalition's lead in parliament, Reuters reports. The joint candidate list of Netanyahu's Likud and Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu parties lost projected parliament seats while Israel's strongest opposition parties, left-leaning Labor and the centrist Yesh Atid, were seen as gaining seats.

"Anyone who did not tolerate Lieberman and voted for Netanyahu will think twice, and the same is true for those who did not tolerate Netanyahu and voted for Lieberman," Nahum Barnea of Yedioth Ahronot, the biggest-selling newspaper, told Reuters.

Even members of Netanyahu's own party communicated disgust.

"We’re repulsed by this partnership with Lieberman," one Likud official told Haaretz. "I don't want to run with a person like Lieberman, with the kind of values he stands for."

The Los Angeles Times notes that Lieberman’s party has "at times advocated expelling Israeli Arabs to the West Bank and opposed making concessions to draw Palestinians back to the negotiating table. Lieberman is also fighting a criminal indictment over allegations that he accepted bribes."

British ExxonMobil oil chief 'assassinated' in Brussels street...

 Via

Belgian police have imposed a news blackout after Nicholas Mockford, 60, was shot as he left an Italian restaurant in Neder-over-Heembeek, a suburb of the capital.
The executive was shot three times, once as he lay on the ground, after leaving the Da Marcello restaurant in Rue de Beyseghem at around 10pm on Oct 14.
His wife, Mary, was left beaten and covered in blood. Mr Mockford died on the way to hospital.
Witnesses said they saw the couple walk across the street to their car, a silver Lexus 4x4, before shots were fired.
The attack was said to have happened very quickly and Mrs Mockford was left cradling her husband in the street, shouting for help. According to reports, two men were seen running away carrying a motorcycle helmet.

Initially police said they were not excluding any possibilities, including a carjacking, but Mr Mockford's car was not stolen.

The Belgian prosecutor's office said last night that there was a "judicial instruction" from Martine Quintin, the investigating judge, that meant they could give no "explanation" and no detail about the killing.

"This is usual in such a serious murder investigation," a spokesman said.

Mr Mockford had worked for the company since the 1970s, and was a technical support manager in “intermediates technology” for ExxonMobil Chemicals, Europe.

He was a keen sailor and was the skipper of an Exxon team who won first prize in a race in the Channel last year aboard their yacht Musette.

He was also interested in motor cycling. Mr Mockford had been married to his second wife, who is Belgian, for 15 years, and
had three grown-up children from his first marriage, all of whom live in Britain.

He was brought up in Leicestershire and had last lived in this country in Chichester, but had been abroad for some years, mostly in Belgium and Singapore.

One family member told The Daily Telegraph he believed Mr Mockford had been killed in a professional hit.

The relation, who asked not to be named, said: "We are all confused about what has happened. Nick was a genuinely lovely, clean-cut, mild mannered, family man.

"I don't think he would put up a fight or argue with someone trying to steal his company car.

"He was shot so calmly and so quickly, it smacks horribly of a professional hit, but we can't fathom why. He isn't the type to cave in to blackmail and it just doesn't compute."

A spokesman for ExxonMobil said: "We are shocked by the tragic death of one of our employees on Sunday, October 14 in Brussels.

"Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues and we are supporting them as best we can at this very difficult time."

The relation said Mrs Mockford was recovering from the ordeal and had not been badly hurt. "He was always very tight-lipped about what he did, even when sitting around with the family," the relation added.

Report claims USGS underreporting radon levels in response from pressure from oil and gas industry...

Via SSM

A report from a group called the Radioactive Waste Management Associates (RWMA), which is researching the risk of increased radon pollution in the Marcellus Shale belt.

They found the U.S. Geological Survey appeared to be underreporting radon levels, and there’s evidence that the industry is controlling the location and other details of the test wells.

(Emphasis added)

Why were the USGS measurements so low and at variance with other EPA and USGS studies? Here the story takes an interesting turn. A call to one of the USGS researchers revealed the following: 

In response to a request for the well logs, to examine whether the wells reached the Marcellus shale formation, the USGS researcher said they had none. 

RWMA: Then, can you give us the location of the Pennsylvania wells? With the location, we could find the well logs in Pennsylvania State files. 

USGS : Well, no, that would break the trust with the gas companies that allowed us access. 

RWMA: Okay, then how do you know you reached the Marcellus shale formation? 

USGS : Because we were told so. 

RWMA: Who selected the wells? 

USGS : The US Department of Energy in collaboration with the gas companies. 

RWMA: Did you feel comfortable publishing what are essentially screening results? 

USGS : No, but pressure from higher-ups at USGS forced our hand .

To summarize: The oil and gas industry chose specific wells, in which USGS researchers unsurprisingly measured low radon concentrations and were then pressured by the oil and gas industry to publish these preliminary findings, under the USGS imprimatur. It appears the USGS has been corrupted by the oil and gas industry.

Monday, October 22, 2012

"According to a report last month by academics at Stanford and New York universities, between 2,562 and 3,325 people have been killed since the (drone) strikes in Pakistan began in 2004. The report said of those, up to 881 were civilians, including 176 children. Only 41 people who had died had been confirmed as ‘high-value’ terrorist targets"...

 Via ICH

The Mail on Sunday today reveals shocking new evidence of the full horrific impact of US drone attacks in Pakistan.
 
A damning dossier assembled from exhaustive research into  the strikes’ targets sets out in heartbreaking detail the deaths of teachers, students and Pakistani policemen. It also describes how bereaved relatives are forced to gather their loved ones’ dismembered body parts in the aftermath of strikes.

The dossier has been assembled by human rights lawyer Shahzad Akbar, who works for Pakistan’s Foundation for Fundamental Rights and the British human rights charity Reprieve.

Filed in two separate court cases, it is set to trigger a formal murder investigation by police into the roles of two US officials said to have ordered the strikes. They are Jonathan Banks, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Islamabad station, and John A. Rizzo, the CIA’s former chief lawyer. Mr Akbar and his staff have already gathered further testimony which has yet to be filed.

How the attacks unfolded...
It also describes how bereaved relatives are forced to gather their loved ones¿ dismembered body parts in the aftermath of strikes.


It also describes how bereaved relatives are forced to gather their loved ones¿ dismembered body parts in the aftermath of strikes.


It also describes how bereaved relatives are forced to gather their loved ones¿ dismembered body parts in the aftermath of strikes.


It also describes how bereaved relatives are forced to gather their loved ones¿ dismembered body parts in the aftermath of strikes.
‘We have statements from a further 82 victims’ families relating to more than 30 drone strikes,’ he said. ‘This is their only hope of justice.’

In the first case, which has already been heard by a court in Islamabad, judgment is expected imminently. If the judge grants Mr Akbar’s petition,  an international arrest warrant will be issued via Interpol against the  two Americans. 

The second case is being heard in the city of Peshawar. In it, Mr Akbar and the families of drone victims who are civilians are seeking a ruling that further strikes in Pakistani airspace should be viewed as ‘acts of war’.

They argue that means the Pakistan Air Force should try to shoot down the drones and that the government should sever diplomatic relations with the US and launch murder inquiries against those responsible.

According to a report last month by academics at Stanford and New York universities, between 2,562 and 3,325 people have been killed since the strikes in Pakistan began in 2004.

The report said of those, up to  881 were civilians, including 176  children. Only 41 people who had  died had been confirmed as ‘high-value’ terrorist targets.

Getting at the truth is difficult because the tribal regions along the frontier are closed to journalists. US security officials continue to claim that almost all those killed are militants who use bases in Pakistan to launch attacks on Western forces across the border in Afghanistan.

In his only acknowledgement that the US has ever launched such attacks at all, President Barack Obama said in January: ‘This is a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists, who are trying to go in and harm Americans.’ 
 
But behind the dry legal papers seen by The Mail on Sunday lies the most detailed investigation into  individual strikes that has yet been  carried out. It suggests that the US President was mistaken.


Missile attacks in in Pakistan have had devastating affects, the dossier revealed
The plaintiff in the Islamabad case is Karim Khan, 45, a journalist and translator with two masters’ degrees, whose family comes from the village of Machi Khel in the tribal region of North Waziristan.

His eldest son, Zahinullah, 18, and his brother, Asif Iqbal, 35, were killed by a Hellfire missile fired from a Predator drone that struck the  family’s guest dining room at about 9.30pm on New Year’s Eve, 2009. 

Asif had changed his surname because he loved to recite Iqbal,  Pakistan’s national poet, and Mr Khan said: ‘We are an educated family.  My uncle is a hospital doctor in  Islamabad, and we all work in professions such as teaching.

‘We have never had anything to do with militants or terrorists, and for that reason I always assumed we would be safe.’

Mr Khan said: ‘Zahinullah, who had been studying in Islamabad, had returned to the village to work his way through college, taking a part-time job as a school caretaker.
‘He was a quiet boy and studious – always in the top group of his class.’ Zahinullah also liked football, cricket and hunting partridges.

Asif, he added, was an English teacher and had spent several years taking further courses to improve his qualifications while already in work. 

Mr Khan said: ‘He was my kid brother. We used to have a laugh, tell jokes.’ His first child was less than a year old when Asif was killed.

Included in the legal dossier are documents that corroborate Asif and Zahinulla’s educational and employment records, as well as their death certificates. Killed alongside them was Khaliq Dad, a stonemason who was staying with the family while he worked on a local mosque.

Mr Khan, who had been working for a TV station in Islamabad, said he was given the news of their deaths in a 2am phone call from a cousin.


Drones have caused untold damage, and the dossier reveals just how devastating they have been for families.

‘I called a friend who had a car and we started driving through the night to get back to the village,’ he said. ‘It was a terrible journey. I was shocked,  grieving, angry, like anyone who had lost their loved ones.’

He got home soon after dawn and describes his return ‘like entering a village of the dead – it was so quiet.  There was a crowd gathered outside the compound but nowhere for them to sit because the guest rooms had been destroyed’.

Zahinullah, Mr Khan discovered, had been killed instantly, but despite his horrific injuries, Asif had survived long enough to be taken to a nearby hospital. However, he died during the night.

‘We always bury people quickly in our culture. The funeral was at three o’clock that afternoon, and more than 1,000 people came,’ Mr Khan said. ‘Zahinullah had a wound on the side of his face and his body was crushed and charred. I am told the people who push the buttons to  fire the missiles call these strikes “bug-splats”. 

‘It is beyond my imagination how they can lack all mercy and compassion, and carry on doing this for years. They are not human beings.’

Mr Khan found Mr Akbar through a friend who had attended lectures he gave at an Islamabad university. In 2010, he filed a criminal complaint – known as a first information report – to police naming  Mr Banks. However, they took no action, therefore triggering the  lawsuit – a judicial review of that failure to act.

If the judge finds in favour of  Mr Khan, his decision cannot be appealed, thus making the full criminal inquiry and Interpol warrants inevitable.

According to the legal claim, someone from the Pakistan CIA network led by Mr Banks – who left Pakistan in 2010 – targeted the Khan family and guided the Hellfire missile by throwing a GPS homing device into their compound.

Mr Rizzo is named because of  an interview he gave to a US reporter after he retired as CIA General Counsel last year. In it, he boasted that he had personally authorised every drone strike in which America’s enemies were ‘hunted down and blown to bits’.
 He added: ‘It’s basically a hit-list .  .  . The Predator is the weapon of choice, but it could also be someone putting a bullet in your head.’

Last night a senior Pakistani  security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Pakistan’s own intelligence agency, the ISI, has always been excluded by the CIA from choosing drone  targets. 

‘They insist on using their own networks, paying their own informants. Dollars can be very persuasive,’ said the official.

He claimed the intelligence behind drone strikes was often seriously flawed. As a result, ‘they are causing the loss of innocent lives’.

But even this, he added, was not  as objectionable as the so-called ‘signature strikes’ – when a drone operator, sitting at a computer screen thousands of miles away in Nevada, selects a target because he thinks the drone camera has spotted something suspicious.

He said: ‘It could be a vehicle  containing armed men heading towards the border, and the operator thinks, “Let’s get them before they get there,” without any idea of who they are.

‘It could also just be people sitting together. In the frontier region, every male is armed but it doesn’t mean they are militants.’

One such signature strike killed more than 40 people in Datta Khel in North Waziristan on March 17 last year. The victims, Mr Akbar’s dossier makes clear, had gathered for a jirga – a tribal meeting – in order to discuss a dispute between two clans over the division of royalties from a chromite mine.

Some of the most horrifying testimony comes from Khalil Khan, the son of Malik Haji Babat, a tribal leader and police officer. ‘My father was not a terrorist. He was not an enemy of the United States,’ Khalil’s legal statement says. ‘He was a hard-working and upstanding citizen, the type of person others looked up to and aspired to be like.’

Khalil, 32, last saw his father three hours before his death, when he left for a business meeting in a nearby town. Informed his father had been killed, Khalil hurried to the scene.

‘What I saw when I got off the bus at Datta Khel was horrible,’ he said. ‘I immediately saw flames and women and children were saying there had been a drone strike. The fires spread after the strike.

‘I went to the location where the jirga had been held. The situation was really very bad. There were still people lying around injured.

‘The tribal elders who had been killed could not be identified because there were body parts strewn about. The smell was awful. I just collected the pieces that I believed belonged to my father and placed them in a small coffin.’

Khalil said that as a police officer, his father had earned a good salary, on which he supported his family. Khalil has considered returning to the Gulf, where he worked for 14 years, but ‘because of the frequency of drones I am concerned to leave my family’. 

He added that schools in the area were empty because ‘parents are afraid their children will be hit by  a missile’. 

In another statement – one of 13 taken by Mr Akbar concerning the Datta Khel strike – driver Ahmed Jan, 52, describes the moment the missile hit: ‘We were in the middle of our discussion and I was thrown about 24ft from where I was sitting. I was knocked unconscious. When I awoke, I saw many individuals who were injured or dead.

‘I have lost the use of one of my feet and have a rod inserted because of the injuries. It is so painful for me to walk. There are scars on my face because I had to have an operation on my nose when it would not stop bleeding.’

Mr Jan says he has spent £3,600 on medical treatment but ‘I have never been offered compensation of any kind .  .  . I do not know why this jirga was targeted. I am a malik [elder] of my tribe and therefore a government servant. We were not doing anything wrong or illegal.’

Another survivor was Mohammed Noor, 27, a stonemason, who attended the jirga with his uncle and his cousin, both of whom were killed. ‘The parts of their bodies had to be collected first. These parts were all we had of them,’ he said.

Mr Akbar said that fighting back through the courts was the only way ‘to solve the larger problem’ of the ongoing terrorist conflict.

‘It is the only way to break the cycle of violence,’ he said. ‘If we want to change the people of Waziristan, we first have to show them that we respect the rule of law.’
A senior CIA officer said: ‘We do not discuss active operations or  allegations against specific individuals.’ A White House source last night declined to comment.

Behind the veil: Secret Mormon Temple rituals (Video)

Seen at WMR homepage


Japan's Okinawa Assembly passes protest resolution against US military base...

 Via ABC

The legislature of the Japanese island of Okinawa has passed a protest resolution following the arrests of two U.S. sailors accused of rape, and says U.S. bases there should be shrunk or returned.

The resolution approved Monday demands proper punishment and victim compensation in the rape case. The prefectural assembly also demands that the U.S. military educate its personnel better to prevent crimes against Okinawa residents.

The legislature says 5,747 crimes are on record involving U.S. military personnel since Okinawa was returned to Japan in 1972. It says that in some cases criminal activity is getting worse.

The U.S. Forces Japan has placed an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew to all military personnel in the country.

Spain to ban photos or videos of police in action...

 Via DJ

Allegedly to protect the lives of law enforcement officers, but more likely a crack-down on freedom of expression, Spain's government is drafting a law to ban citizens from photographing or filming police officers at their work.

The drafting of this legislation comes amidst waves of protests throughout Spain over the austerity cuts to public healthcare and education. With the Interior Minister, Jorge Fernandez Diaz, stating that they are not cracking down on freedom of expression, the new "Citizen Safety Law" will prohibit “the capture, reproduction and editing of images, sounds or information of members of the security or armed forces in the line of duty,” according to Ignacio Cosidó, the Director General of the police. Cosidó added that the new legislation seeks to “find a balance between the protection of citizens’ rights and those of security forces.” Under this new legislation, it will also be punishable by law to disseminate photos and videos over social networks, like Facebook. 
 
The new law will cover all images that could pose a risk to the physical safety of police officers, or could impede them from executing their duty. However, the Interior Ministry stresses that it will not encroach on freedom of expression. 
 
Cosido stressed, “We are trying to avoid images of police being uploaded onto social networks with threats to them and their families.” 
 
According to the United Police Syndicate in Spain, implementation of this new legislation would be “very complicated”, as it does not establish any guidelines over the types of image that would violate the rights of a police officer. The syndicate says that the ministry will encounter "legal problems" should it not specify clearly the "ins and outs of the law." 
 
Despite this Cosidó argued that the measures are necessary, given the “elevated levels of violence against officers” in the economic crisis that is “undermining the basis of a democratic society.”
 
There have been many anti-austerity protests in Spain over the past year, with many reports and much footage of police brutality against protesters. It is clear from this footage that many Spanish police officers do not wear their identification badges during the protests, despite the fact that the law requires this. 
 
Legislation that prevents citizens, and for that matter, journalists from taking photos or videos of the police in action during the protests is a clear breach of freedom of expression. 
 
In the US, there have been several incidences where video taken by citizen journalists, has cleared defendants in Occupy-related arrests. A good example of this was reported on Digital Journal in the NYPD case against Alexander Arbuckle, arrested for disorderly conduct in the OWS protest early on New Year's Day, but cleared due to the video footage of a citizen journalist, Tim Pool. Ironically, Arbuckle was not even part of the protest, and up until that time actually supported the police. Obviously he changed his tune once arrested by the NYPD. 
 
With more and more stories of police brutality doing the rounds in the media, it is a worrying precedent when the right to take photos or videos of police officers is taken away from concerned citizens and citizen journalists. It pretty much gives the police the edge to do whatever they want, and leaves you unable to prove a thing. 
 
 
With recent violence between police and protesters, especially near Parliament in Madrid on September 25, many Spaniards have been shocked by images of protesters, bloodied and in need of medical attention, appearing on the television. Of course it is essential that people know about this kind of violence and what is happening in the streets around them. The video above shows the events in Madrid on September 25, including the brutal attack by the police. Presumably, this type of video would not be allowed under the new legislation?  
 
Fernandez Diaz did, however, tell the media, "We do not intend to stop the press from doing its job of taking pictures of police charges and other proceedings. But we understand that in anti-terrorist operations or against mafias you have to have a more careful approach when it comes to disseminating images." 
 
This leaves things a little unclear. Does that mean that the media are allowed to take images of police action, but a simple citizen journalist, such as the writer of this article, is not? 
 
Lead writer for the Spanish national newspaper, El Mundo, Angel Casaña, published an online editorial saying that photography has changed the course of history. He states that the government's proposed measure could have a negative impact on journalism in Spain. "If this proposal goes ahead, it is going to be impossible to know about events as they occur on the streets just at a time when streets are at boiling point due to the dire economic situation of many families," said Casaña.




Neo-conservative group funding police commissioner candidate in Britain...

 Via

Mervyn Barrett has flooded Lincolnshire with expensive leaflets, free DVDs and full-page newspaper adverts in his bid to be elected as its policing supremo next month.
Unusually for a rural local election, he has employed professional campaign staff, commissioned weekly opinion polls, opened “field offices” and is driven in a chauffeured Mercedes.
He has poured tens of thousands of pounds into the elections, far more than any other candidate anywhere else in Britain.
Mr Barrett describes himself as an “independent”, opposed to “party politics” in policing. He has refused to disclose who is funding him, despite widespread local suspicions generated by the intensity and professionalism of his campaign.
However, it can now be revealed that it has been run by a team from a US-based neo-conservative think tank, the Fund for the New American Century, funded in part by a variety of corporate donors with an interest in public-sector privatisation.

The entire campaign team resigned yesterday within hours of being contacted by The Sunday Telegraph.

Lincolnshire may have been chosen because the county’s police are already “outsourcing” pioneers.

The troubled firm G4S has recently taken over key functions at the force, including its custody suites, central control room and firearms licensing department. G4S also plans a new central police station in a village outside Lincoln, with the existing city centre station closed and sold for housing.

After G4S’s security failures at the Olympics, Mr Barrett strongly backed the company, saying that the Lincolnshire deal was “working well.” He attacked his rival candidates, who suggested cancelling the deal, for making “bankrupt promises” and “playing politics”.

Investigation of Mr Barrett’s campaign website reveals that it is registered to a New York and Washington-based “political action committee”, MatthewPAC, part of The Fund for the New American Century, whose website says it is “dedicated to building America’s future by supporting candidates who share our vision for reform and innovation”.

The fund is expanding in Europe and is advertising for a UK-based “assistant to the executive chairman” on a salary of up to £55,000.
Mr Barrett’s campaign has also advertised for staff, speaking of the “sophisticated and wide-ranging support available from our US and UK-based consultants”.

The Sunday Telegraph has established that Matthew de Unger Brown, Mr Barrett’s “special adviser”, campaign manager and press spokesman until yesterday, is also chairman of the Fund for the New American Century.

“We support Republican candidates. It is a centre-Right organisation,” Mr de Unger Brown said. “I don’t think that neo-con would be an unfair description.”

One of Mr Barrett’s opponents in the election, David Bowles, another independent and former chief executive of Lincolnshire county council, said: “It is a very slick campaign but it appears that Mervyn is no more than a puppet.

"Every time I have tried to contact him, the response has always come back from Matthew and every time I’ve tried to meet him it’s been Matthew I’ve met instead.”

Mr Bowles claimed that last week Mr de Unger Brown asked to meet him to discuss the possibility of an electoral deal, with Mr Barrett becoming his deputy.

“Matthew told me that the funding for Mervyn’s campaign was coming from people with an interest in police sector privatisation,” Mr Bowles said.

“I was told that any deal including Mervyn would be conditional on that funding continuing, and I made it clear that I was not prepared to accept a penny.”

Mr de Unger Brown said that his organisation was also backing other Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) candidates elsewhere in England, Mr Bowles added.

Directly elected PCCs, one for each force area outside London, were part of one of the Government’s flagship policing reforms, intended to “sweep away” police bureaucracy and “give people real control” over their force.

The commissioners, paid up to £100,000 a year, will replace unelected police authorities and control police budgets and strategy, though “operational matters” will remain in the hands of the local chief constable.

Some analysts have long feared that a low turnout in the November 15 elections could hand “Trojan horse” candidates power and control over policing with only a few thousand votes. The Electoral Reform Society warned last month that the poll could become a farce, with turnout of just 18.5 per cent.

Mr de Unger Brown said last night: “The Fund for the New American Century takes, both in the UK and the US, funding from a variety of corporate donors.

“Mervyn Barrett for PCC has not taken — directly — any money from organisations that have any interest in commissioning outsourced services.” He refused to deny that money had been supplied via the fund.

Mr de Unger Brown said his campaign would comply with all disclosure requirements of electoral law, but under a loophole in Electoral Commission rules, independent candidates do not have to publish details of their donors until after the election. He declined to say which companies were providing funding, but said the campaign envisaged spending almost £100,000 by polling day.

A few hours after being contacted by The Sunday Telegraph, Mr de Unger Brown and his campaign team resigned.

Shortly after announcing his candidacy, Companies House records show, Mr Barrett established a new company, Trinity Advisory Ltd, based at his home.

It is not clear what the purpose of the company is or what advice Mr Barrett is offering and no accounts have yet been filed.
G4S said that it had not funded any PCC campaign.

Critics of the PCC elections have raised fears over the democratic accountability of candidates elected on very small turnouts.

“The focus on turnout could make us miss a real opportunity to debate the liberal consensus on how to tackle crime,” said Sam Chapman, a former police officer and unsuccessful candidate for the Conservative PCC nomination in Lancashire.

“There are police and other interests who don’t want PCCs and want to make this election unsuccessful. Some of the Government’s decisions have played into their hands.”

During the passage of the legislation, the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), which represents chief constables, pushed hard for drastic restrictions on candidates. Any conviction for a criminal offence carrying a potential prison sentence is a bar to standing, even if the person was not themselves imprisoned and even if they were a juvenile at the time.

One of the best-known figures to consider standing, the Falklands war hero Simon Weston, fell foul of the rule.

In the mid-1970s, as a 14-year-old, Mr Weston, who is now 51, was fined £30 and put on probation for riding in a stolen car, though he did not know it was stolen. Another well-qualified candidate, Bob Ashford, a former senior executive in the youth justice system, was forced out because of a minor conviction in 1966, when he was 13.

Other rules include a strict residential qualification which bars many potential candidates, such as the broadcaster Nick Ross, who do not live in the county where they want to stand.

The depth of the candidate problem is shown by the fact that virtually the only prominent figure left in the race is Lord Prescott, who is standing in Humberside, one of 41 police forces in England and Wales to be holding elections. “Some of the candidates are quite good,” said Mr Chapman. “But some are mediocre placemen, councillors and police authority members who are being very conventional.”

So what? many voters may say: policing should be left to the police. But with the scandal of Hillsborough fresh in the mind — and five chief constables, in the last six months alone, sacked, suspended, forced to resign or placed under investigation — it appears hard to believe that police leadership cannot be improved.

“The police have essentially been unreformed for a long time and chief constables are used to doing what they want,” said Mr Chapman.
“The pity of these elections is that there could have been a real debate about crime and policing, but we haven’t got it yet.”

Sunday, October 21, 2012

How to kill time without staring at your phone...

 Via

Once upon a time, standing around and waiting involved exactly that: Standing around, waiting, and not doing much else. Today, any free moment is spent facedown in a phone. Stop reading this on your own phone. Right now. Look around. At this moment, you should be the only person, anywhere in sight, not looking at a phone.
But staring at that phone isn't the only way to wait. You can do other stuff. In fact, there are exactly six things you can do instead.

Make eye contact

People used to do this all the time. You could recognize a neighbor or share a moment with an attractive stranger. It can still happen — but you have to be careful. You don't want to be caught staring right at the moment that person looks up from his (or especially her) phone. Wait until the fleeting few seconds when this person looks away from the phone for some reason, then casually lock eyes. Smile! It will seem a lot less weird that way. When you get back online, this kind of encounter is a great thing to put on Craigslist as a Missed Connection.

Talk about the weather

This is a classic. If you're new at it, try some established introductory phrases.

  • "This is some rain!"
  • "Hot enough for ya?"
  • "They say it's gonna turn cold tomorrow!"
For this to work, you'll need a little luck, because you have to find someone else who is also not looking at a phone. Otherwise, there's a data-filled weather app just a tap away. Not to mention that look: Why are you talking to me, can't you see I'm looking at my phone?

Observe your surroundings

If you look up from your phone for long enough, you can notice amazing things happening all around you. A pigeon pecking at a pizza crust. A man pushing a shopping cart piled higher than his head. A grown woman weeping hysterically. That's real life! And it is stunning. Once you get back on your phone, all of these observations will make excellent tweets.

Find unusual patterns

This one is a bit of a brain teaser. Look over at that odd brick wall, or the hexagonal tile on the floor, or that way the ice cubes collect at the bottom of your glass. Gaze into these shapes. Watch them form new shapes. See the shapes begin to arrange themselves, rotating, and falling into position. So chaotic, yet so organized. You know what? This calls for a quick game of "Tetris."

See what other people are looking at on their phones

This is an endlessly fascinating sociological exercise, and it can also give you fresh ideas about what you could be doing on your own phone. A scouting report from a recent bus ride:

  • Shiny gold case. Hot pink case. iPhone 5, no case.
  • Cracked white iPhone 4 with an incoming call from "Daddy."
  • Bedazzled lady playing "Bedazzled."
  • Woman urgently speaking Spanish into a white Nokia with gold trim.
  • Girl on an HTC, reading Gawker, followed by "A Farmer's Market, Deep in China."
You could also just read a book

But then you're not even thinking about looking at your phone. You're looking at your Kindle.
This is what I do, anyway — how do you kill time phone-free?

Mitt Romney's bailout bonanza...

Via

Mitt Romney’s opposition to the auto bailout has haunted him on the campaign trail, especially in Rust Belt states like Ohio. There, in September, the Obama campaign launched television ads blasting Romney’s November 2008 New York Times op-ed, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” But Romney has done a good job of concealing, until now, the fact that he and his wife, Ann, personally gained at least $15.3 million from the bailout—and a few of Romney’s most important Wall Street donors made more than $4 billion. Their gains, and the Romneys’, were astronomical—more than 3,000 percent on their investment.


It all starts with Delphi Automotive, a former General Motors subsidiary whose auto parts remain essential to GM’s production lines. No bailout of GM—or Chrysler, for that matter—could have been successful without saving Delphi. So, in addition to making massive loans to automakers in 2009, the federal government sent, directly or indirectly, more than $12.9 billion to Delphi—and to the hedge funds that had gained control over it.

One of the hedge funds profiting from that bailout—
$1.28 billion so far—is Elliott Management, directed by 
Paul Singer. According to The Wall Street Journal, Singer has given more to support GOP candidates—$2.3 million—than anyone else on Wall Street this election season. His personal giving is matched by that of his colleagues at Elliott; collectively, they have donated $3.4 million to help elect Republicans this season, while giving only $1,650 to Democrats. And Singer is influential with the GOP presidential candidate; he’s not only an informal adviser but, according to the Journal, his support was critical in helping push Representative Paul Ryan onto the ticket.

Singer, whom Fortune magazine calls a “passionate defender of the 1%,” has carved out a specialty investing in distressed firms and distressed nations, which he does by buying up their debt for pennies on the dollar and then demanding payment in full. This so-called “vulture investor” received $58 million on Peruvian debt that he snapped up for $11.4 million, and $90 million on Congolese debt that he bought for a mere $20 million. In the process, he’s built one of the largest private equity firms in the nation, and over decades he’s racked up an unusually high average return on investments of 14 percent.

Other GOP presidential hopefuls chased Singer’s endorsement, but Mitt chased Singer with his own checkbook, investing at least $1 million with Elliott through Ann Romney’s blind trust (it could be far more, but the Romneys have declined to disclose exactly how much). Along the way, Singer gained a reputation, according to Fortune, “for strong-arming his way to profit.” That is certainly what happened at Delphi.

* * *

Delphi, once the Delco unit of General Motors, was spun off into a separate company in 1999. Alone, Delphi foundered, declaring bankruptcy in 2005, after which vulture hedge funds, led by Silver Point Capital, began to buy up the company’s old debt. Later, as the nation’s financial crisis accelerated, Singer’s Elliott bought Delphi debt, as did John Paulson & Co. John Paulson, like Singer, is a $1 million donor to Romney. Also investing was Third Point, run by Daniel Loeb, who was once an Obama supporter but who this summer hosted a $25,000-a-plate fundraiser for Romney and personally donated about $500,000 to the GOP.

As Delphi was in bankruptcy, making few payments, the bonds were junk, considered toxic by the banks holding them. The hedge funds were able to pick up the securities for a song; most of Elliott’s purchases cost just 20 cents on the dollar of their face value.

By the end of June 2009, with the bailout negotiations in full swing, the hedge funds, under Singer’s lead, used their bonds to buy up a controlling interest in Delphi’s stock. According to SEC filings, they paid, on average, an equivalent of only 67 cents per share.

Just two years later, in November 2011, the Singer syndicate took Delphi public at $22 a share, turning an eye-popping profit of more than 3,000 percent. Singer’s fund investors scored a gain of $904 million, all courtesy of the US taxpayer. But that’s not all. In the year since Delphi began trading publicly, its stock has soared 45 percent. Loeb’s gains so far for Third Point: $390 million. The gains for Silver Point, headed by two Goldman Sachs alums: $894 million. John Paulson’s fund, which has already sold half its holdings, has a $2.6 billion gain. And Singer’s funds and partners, combining what they’ve sold and what they hold, have $1.29 billion in profits, about forty-four times their original investment.

Yet without taking billions in taxpayer bailout funds—and slashing worker pensions—the hedge funds’ investment in Delphi would not have been worth a single dollar, according to calculations by GM and the US Treasury.

Altogether, in direct and indirect payouts, the government padded these investors’ profits handsomely. The Treasury allowed GM to give Delphi at least $2.8 billion of funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to keep Delphi in business. GM also forgave $2.5 billion in debt owed to it by Delphi, and $2 billion due from Singer and company upon Delphi’s exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The money GM forgave was effectively owed to the Treasury, which had by then become the majority owner of GM as a result of the bailout. Then there was the big one: the government’s Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation took over paying all of Delphi’s retiree pensions. The cost to the taxpayer: $5.6 billion. The bottom line: the hedge funds’ paydays were made possible by a generous donation of $12.9 billion from US taxpayers.

* * *

One of President Obama’s first acts in office, in February 2009, was to form the Auto Task Force with the goal of saving GM, Chrysler, their suppliers and, most important, auto industry jobs. Crucial to the plan was saving Delphi, which then employed more than 25,000 union workers.

Obama hired Steven Rattner, himself a millionaire hedge fund manager, to head the task force that would negotiate with the troubled firms and their creditors to avoid the collapse of the entire industry. In Rattner’s memoir of the affair, Overhaul, he describes a closed-door meeting held in March 2009 to resolve Delphi’s fate. He writes that Delphi, now in the possession of its hedge fund creditors, told the Treasury and GM to hand over $350 million immediately, “because if you don’t, we’ll shut you down.” His explanation was corroborated by Delphi’s chief financial officer, John Sheehan, who said in a sworn deposition in July 2009 that the hedge fund debt holders backed up their threat with “an analysis of the cost to GM if Delphi were unwilling or unable to provide supply to GM,” forcing a “shutdown.” It would take “years and tens of billions” for GM to replace Delphi’s parts. At that bleak moment, GM had neither. The automaker had left the inventory of its steering column and other key components in Delphi’s hands. If Delphi laid siege to GM’s parts supply, the bailout would fail and GM would have to be liquidated or sold off—as would another Delphi dependent, Chrysler.

Rattner could not believe that Delphi’s management—now effectively under the hedge funders’ control—would “want to be perceived as holding GM hostage at such a precarious economic moment.” One Wall Street Journal analyst suggested that Singer was treating Delphi “like a third world country.” Rattner likened the subsidies demanded by Delphi’s debt holders to “extortion demands by the Barbary pirates.”

Romney has slammed the bailout as a payoff to the auto workers union. But that certainly wasn’t true for the bailout of Delphi. Once the hedge funders, including Singer—a deep-pocketed right-wing donor and activist who serves as chair of the conservative, anti-union Manhattan Institute—took control of the firm, they rid Delphi of every single one of its 25,200 unionized workers.

Of the twenty-nine Delphi plants operating in the United States when the hedge funders began buying up control, only four remain, with not a single union production worker. Romney’s “job creators” did create jobs—in China, where Delphi now produces the parts used by GM and other major automakers here and abroad. Delphi is now incorporated overseas, leaving the company with 5,000 employees in the United States (versus almost 100,000 abroad).

Third Point’s Daniel Loeb, whose net worth of $1.3 billion owes much to his share in the Delphi windfall, told his fund’s backers this past July that Delphi remains an excellent investment because it has “virtually no North American unionized labor” and, thanks to US taxpayers, “significantly smaller pension liabilities than almost all of its peers.”

* * *

Another outcome may have been possible. In June 2009, the Treasury and GM announced a bailout deal they’d crafted over months with the cooperation of the United Auto Workers. GM would take back control of Delphi via a joint venture with Platinum Equity, a buyout firm led by billionaire Tom Gores, a self-described “Michigan man” who grew up in the shadow of Delphi’s Flint plant.

The final Platinum plan, according to Delphi’s official statement posted on Marketwire in June 2009, lists plants in fourteen locations slated for closing, which would have left several of Delphi’s plants still in business, still unionized—and still in the United States. Crucially, the deal would have returned key Delphi operations, including the production of steering columns, directly to GM.

The hedge funders stunned Delphi by refusing to accept the Platinum plan. Harshly criticizing it as a “sweetheart deal,” they demanded 45 cents on the dollar for the debt bonds they had bought on the cheap—more than double what the Treasury-brokered Platinum deal would pay.

Then the Singer-led debt holders swooped in. After the Platinum deal was announced, Elliott Management quietly tripled its holdings of Delphi bonds, purchased at just one-fifth of their face value. By joining forces with Silver Point, Paulson and Loeb, Singer now controlled Delphi’s fate.

Gores, Delphi and UAW officials declined to respond to queries about the deal on the record, but the sworn deposition by Delphi CFO Sheehan (confidential then, but later posted on Scribd.com) lets us in on the tense negotiations culminating in a twenty-hour showdown between Delphi, GM, the UAW, the Auto Task Force and the US pension agency, on the one hand, and Singer’s hedge fund group, on the other. Delphi said it would dump the Platinum deal if the hedge funds would agree to terms that would take care of all stakeholders, including the following stipulation: “Agree on plan structure to maximize job preservation.”

The hedge funders said no, since they had a billion-dollar ace up their sleeve. According to Sheehan, Singer and company’s controlling interest allowed them to force the bankruptcy judge to hold an auction for all of Delphi’s stock. The debt holders outbid the Michigan Man’s team, offering $3.5 billion. But it wasn’t $3.5 billion in cash: under the rules of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, debtors-in-possession may bid the face value of their bonds rather than their current market value, which at the time was significantly lower. Under the Platinum deal, Delphi would have had much more in real money for operations: $250 million in cash from Gores, another $250 million in credit, and $3.1 billion in “exit financing” from GM, all of it backed up by TARP. Still, under Chapter 11 rules, the Platinum bid was technically lower. And that’s how Singer’s funds—which included the Romneys’ investment—came to buy Delphi for the equivalent of only 67 cents a share.

Rattner and GM, embarrassingly outmaneuvered, tried to put a good face on it. As Rattner wrote in his memoir, “In truth we didn’t care who got Delphi as long as GM could extricate itself from the continual drain on its finances and assure itself of a reliable supply of parts.”

* * *

Even before the hedge funds won their bid for Delphi’s stock, they were already squeezing the parts supplier and its workforce. In February 2009, Delphi, claiming a cash shortage, unilaterally terminated health insurance for its nonunion pensioners. But according to Rattner, the Treasury’s Task Force uncovered foggy accounting hiding the fact that the debt holders had deliberately withheld millions of dollars in cash sitting in Delphi accounts. Even after this discovery, the creditors still refused to release the funds.

The savings to the hedge fund billionaires of dropping retiree insurance was peanuts—$70 million a year—compared with the profits they later extracted from Delphi. But the harm to Delphi retirees was severe. Bruce Naylor of Kokomo, Indiana, had been forced into retirement at the age of 54 in 2006, when Delphi began to move its plants overseas. Naylor’s promised pension was slashed 40 percent, and his health insurance and life insurance were canceled. Though he had thirty-six years of experience under his belt as an engineer with GM and Delphi, he couldn’t find another job as an engineer—and he doesn’t know a single former co-worker who has found new employment in his or her field, either. Naylor ended up getting work at a local grocery store. That job gone, he now sells cars online for commission, bringing in one-fifth of what he earned before he was laid off from Delphi.

Even with his wife Judy’s income as a nurse, it hasn’t been enough: the Naylors just declared bankruptcy, and their home is in foreclosure.

After the hedge fund takeover of Delphi, the squeeze on workers intensified through attacks on their pensions. During its years of economic trouble, Delphi had been chronically shorting payments to its pension funds—and by July 2009, they were underfunded by $7 billion. That month, Singer’s hedge fund group won the bid for control of Delphi’s stock and made clear they would neither make up the shortfall nor pay any more US worker pensions. Checkmated by the hedge funders, the government’s Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation agreed to take over Delphi’s pension payments. The PBGC would eat the shortfall.

With Delphi’s new owners relieved of its healthcare and pension obligations, its debts to GM and its union contracts—
and now loaded with subsidies from GM funded by TARP—the company’s market value rose from zero to approximately 
$10.5 billion today.

* * *

But there was still a bit of unfinished business: President Obama needed to be blamed for the pension disaster. In a television ad airing in swing states since September, one retired Delphi manager says, “The Obama administration decided to terminate my pension, and I took a 40 percent reduction in my pension.”

Another retiree, Mary Miller, says, “I really struggle to pay for the basics…. I would ask President Obama why I had no rights, and he had all the rights to take my pension away—and never ever look back and say, ‘Not only did I take it from Mary Miller, I took it from 20,000 other people.’”

These people are real. But it’s clear that these former workers, now struggling to scrape by, were hardly in the position to put together $7 million in ad buys to publicize their plight. The ads were paid for by Let Freedom Ring, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit advocacy organization partially funded by Jack Templeton Jr., a billionaire evangelical whose foundation has sponsored lectures at the Manhattan Institute (the anti-union think tank whose board of directors includes not only Singer but Loeb). The ads also conveniently leave out the fact that the law sets specific ceilings on what the PBGC is allowed to pay retirees—regardless of what they were originally owed.

In June 2011, Charles and David Koch hosted a group of multimillionaires at a retreat in Vail, Colorado. In secret recordings obtained by investigator Brad Friedman, the host, Charles Koch, thanks Singer and Templeton, among others, for each donating more than $1 million to the Koch brothers’ 2012 anti-Obama election war chest.

Of course, it wasn’t Obama who refused to pay the Delphi pensions; it was Paul Singer and the other hedge funds controlling Delphi. The salaried workers’ pensions were, after all, an obligation of Delphi’s owners, not the government. Delphi’s stockholders—the Romneys included—had one easy way to rectify the harm to these pensioners, much as GM did for its workers: just pay up.

Making good on the full pensions for salaried workers would cost Delphi a one-time charge of less than $1 billion. This year, Delphi was flush with $1.4 billion in cash—
meaning its owners could have made the pensioners whole 
and still cleared a profit. Instead, in May, Delphi chose to use most of those funds to take over auto parts plants in Asia at 
a cost of $972 million—purchased from Bain Capital.

* * *

That leaves one final question: Exactly how much did the Romneys make off the auto bailout? Queries to the campaign and the Romneys’ trustee have gone unanswered. And Romney has yet to disclose the crucial year of his tax returns, 2009. But whatever the tally, it was one sweet deal. The Romneys were invested with Elliott Management by the end of 2010, before Delphi was publicly traded. So, in effect, they got Delphi stock at Singer’s initial dirt-cheap price. When Delphi’s owners took the company public in November 2011, the Romneys were in—and they hit the jackpot.

In their 2011 and 2012 Federal Financial Disclosure filing, Ann Romney’s trust lists “more than $1 million” invested with Elliott. This is the description for all of her big investments—the minimal disclosure required by law. (Had Romney kept the holding in his own name, he would have had to reveal if his investment with Singer had made more than $50 million.)

It is reasonable to assume that Singer treated the Romneys the same as his other investors, with a third of their portfolio invested in Delphi by the time of the 2011 initial public offering. This means that with an investment of at least $1 million, their smallest possible gain when Delphi went public would have been $10.2 million, plus another $10.2 million for each million handed to Singer—all gains made possible by the auto bailout.

But that’s just the beginning. Since the November 2011 IPO, Delphi’s stock has roared upward, boosting the Romneys’ Delphi windfall from $10.2 million to $15.3 million for each million they invested with Singer.

But what if the Romneys invested a bit more with Singer: let’s say a mere 3 percent of their reported net worth, or 
$7.5 million? (After all, ABC News reported—and Romney didn’t deny—that he invested “a huge chunk of his vast wealth” with Singer.) Then their take from the auto bailout so far would reach a stunning $115 million.

The Romneys’ exact gain, however, remains nearly 
invisible—and untaxed—because Singer cashed out only a fragment of the windfall in 2011. And the Singer-led hedge funds have been able to keep almost all of Delphi’s profits untaxed 
by moving Delphi’s incorporation from Troy, Michigan, to the Isle of Jersey, a tax haven off the coast of France.

The Romneys might insist that the funds were given to Singer, Mitt’s key donor, only through Ann’s blind trust. But as Mitt Romney said some years ago of Ted Kennedy, “The blind trust is an age-old ruse, if you will. Which is to say, you can always tell a blind trust what it can and cannot do.” Romney, who reminds us often that he was CEO of a hedge fund, can certainly read Elliott Management’s SEC statements, and he knows Ann’s trust is invested heavily in a fund whose No. 1 stake is with Delphi.

Nevertheless, even if the Romneys were blind to their initial investment in Elliott, they would have known by the beginning of 2010 that they had a massive position in Delphi and would make a fortune from the bailout and TARP funds. Delphi is not a minor investment for Singer; it is his main holding. To invest in Elliott is essentially a “Delphi play”: that is, investing with Singer means buying a piece of the auto bailout.

Mitt Romney may indeed have wanted to let Detroit die. But if the auto industry was going to be bailed out after all, the Romneys apparently couldn’t resist getting in on a piece of 
the action.

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